Don’t Just Get Licensed, Get TRAINED!

                The most common response I get when I talk to potential students about coming to a Defensive Focus Shooting class is: “I already have my license”. I probably heard it 20 times minimum from people who stopped by my booth at the gun show this past weekend. While I’m glad to see that more and more Texans are taking the steps necessary to exercise their right to carry a defensive handgun; I’m discouraged by how many people seem to believe that attending a licensing class adequately prepares them to efficiently use a firearm in a worst case scenario. To me, this is similar to saying “I went to freshman orientation” as a qualifier for never going to another class in college. The licensing class is essentially an orientation class for armed citizens, and is not meant to be viewed as anything more. You can’t possibly hope to learn much in college if you don’t go to your classes, and you can’t possibly hope to be prepared to use deadly force in self-defense if you stop learning after qualifying for your license. With this post, I am going to lay out some things you need to know that the licensing class simply does not cover. The gaps you will see here should demonstrate why you need to get to follow-on training such as Defensive Focus Shooting if you are really serious about being prepared to defend yourself with a firearm.

                First off, the licensing class is absolutely NOT A SHOOTING CLASS. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is adamant about this fact in the instructor certification class. The licensing class is merely designed to give students a base level understanding of state law and to confirm that they aren’t incapable of operating a firearm safely on the range. Licensing instructors are only required to give a very basic, mechanical overview of how a firearm functions, and how to safely operate the firearm on the range. The things you are expected to learn about handgun use, as mandated by the state, are even more basic than what you would learn in an NRA Basic Pistol class. The 50 rounds that you fire at 3, 7, and 15 yards are just designed to verify that you are “proficient”, which is to say that you can safely operate the gun and put holes in the target at reasonable distances. How efficiently you accomplish this task is not measured, and thus the score you get at the end is totally irrelevant to personal defense. It is quite possible to “qualify” during the shooting portion of your licensing class while using atrocious technique when viewed through the lens of personal defense. Thankfully, many instructors will go above and beyond the state mandate in this area to make sure that students leave with at least some understanding of what “right” looks like, but that certainly is not because the state requires us to do so. When I look at pictures of people shooting the proficiency portion of the state licensing class on Facebook, the grossly lacking standards of most licensing instructors when it comes to shooting fundamentals is very apparent.

                Not being a shooting class, most licensing classes are not likely to teach you any shooting techniques that are relevant to personal defense, unless you have an instructor who goes beyond the mandate, which few do. For instance, one important skill that isn’t covered is presentation of the firearm from the holster. It doesn’t really matter how well you can shoot from the ready position (whatever your instructor thinks that ought to be) if you can’t efficiently present the gun from your holster. Another thing that doesn’t get covered is what generally happens to the human body in the context of an unexpected attack. Shooting under standard conditions in a controlled “qualification” may demonstrate mechanical proficiency, but it certainly doesn’t demonstrate proficiency when your sympathetic nervous system is engaged, with all of the physiological and psychological changes that come with that. Knowledge of what is likely to happen to your body in that situation, and how to efficiently access and employ your firearm in that context is very important, but is totally neglected by the licensing class. Furthermore, with so little time spent on the range in most licensing classes, you can’t learn anything about your physical ability, or the reliability of your gun and gear. One of the great benefits of a full one or two days of class on the range is that any shortcomings in your physical ability, your chosen firearm, holster, belt, positioning of the holster and belt on your person, etc. will become very apparent and can thus be corrected with the help of an instructor. You can very easily “qualify” in the licensing class with a gun that may not actually be reliable in a fight, and you would have no idea. If you don’t learn about your limitations and that of your gear in class, you may not get another chance to do so unless and until your life is on the line. That would obviously not be the ideal time to find out that you are “jacked up”. Coming to an actual training class allows you to find and correct these issues before they can potentially cost you your life.

                We have countless examples on video of law enforcement officers and civilians who may have been “qualified”, “certified”, or “licensed” but were nonetheless forced to improvise in the moment when actually faced with the need to defend themselves. Since the advent of dash cams and surveillance videos, it has become glaringly apparent that “qualification” is not training, and does not ingrain the skills necessary to efficiently confront a threat. The things that we see people doing when they “demonstrate proficiency” or “qualify” on the range almost never looks like what they do in actual fights as captured on video. Many progressive police departments have taken this knowledge and adopted training programs that focus less on bureaucratic training standards and more on training in the context of reality. On the civilian side, there is no department that is going to mandate that you do more after licensing, nor should there be. If you intend to carry a firearm in the public space, you have a personal responsibility to do more than what the state requires to prepare yourself for the reality of a defensive shooting. Simply having the card in your wallet does not mean that you are “trained” or “prepared” in any sense of the words. It’s what you actually DO beyond getting licensed to prepare for a worst case scenario that will set you up for success or failure if you are ever forced to fight with your gun.

                I implore you not to rely on your completion of a bureaucratic licensing standard as adequate preparation for personal defense in the real world. I want you to become as dangerous to the bad guy as possible, and getting licensed is just the first step in your journey to responsible armed citizenship. There are countless resources available to you from distance learning options such as Personal Defense Network to formal training classes under the tutelage of an experienced instructor like you will get in our Defensive Focus Shooting program. Whatever you choose to do based on your budget, please don’t carry a firearm in the public space where my family is if all you have is a piece of plastic that says “licensed”. Get to a class, get to the range, train, practice, and be prepared. Not doing so makes you little more than a potential liability to yourself and the rest of us.

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